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Review: 2nd Story's darkly funny Kimberly Akimbo

Quickly aging here
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  October 12, 2010

DADDY'S LITTLE GIRL Collinson and Kneeland.
Ironic, isn't it, how in the theater less can be so much more? Digital derring-do may have turned Brad Pitt into an aging Benjamin Button on film, but that's lazy trickery next to what's accomplished in David Lindsay-Adaire's Kimberly Akimbo, now onstage at 2nd Story Theatre (through October 24).

The inventive play recruits your imagination to turn Kimberly, played by veteran 2nd Story actor Lynne Collinson, into the 16-year-old title character. Kimberly has progeria, a disease that ages her 4-1/2 times as fast as normal, making her appear 72, with corresponding physical deterioration.

Hold on; stick with me. It's also a comedy — dark, but unmistakably a comedy.

Things ever get so bad that you have to just throw up your hands and cough out a laugh? That's Kimberly. There is a law or something about American teenagers having reasons to roll their eyes about their parents, but Kimberly's should be spinning like slot machine dials. Her father, Buddy (Wayne Kneeland), is a good-natured sort, with no ambition beyond being a gas station attendant, and he very much likes being a drunk. Her mother, Pattie (Laura Sorensen), is a self-absorbed, accident-prone hypochondriac; when she first appears, her hands are thickly bandaged from carpal tunnel syndrome operations, after 16 years on a production line filling cupcakes.

Fortunately, there is fellow teenager Jeff (Will Valles), who goes to Kimberly's high school and asks her if he can do a class report on her disease. Every teenage girl wants to be found interesting by a boy, and it looks like this is what poor Kimberly will have to settle for. He's not morbidly curious, though, just fascinated. And there are indications that he might even be interested in her as more than a friend.

The opening scene is a snapshot of Kimberly's miserable family situation. She has been shivering in the cold outside a skating rink for 2-1/2 hours because her father dropped in at a bar, per usual, before picking her up. He shrugs off his neglect, tries to joke her out of her snit, and promises to take her to Six Flags (she's heard that one before) if she doesn't bust him to her mother.

Pattie is enormously pregnant — woefully so, considering that progeria is hereditary and the baby will have a 25-percent chance of the disease. The pressure on the parents about having a child like Kimberly remains beneath the surface. The playwright wants us to determine for ourselves how much that contributed to Buddy's alcoholism or Pattie's pregnancy. Pattie would like to be a better mother with this second chance, and she insists on removing her cursing, which she indulges in frequently, from the tape recordings she is making as she chatters to the fetus.

Into the picture comes Debra (Amy Thompson), in hippie garb and full of never-take-no-for-an-answer obstinacy. She is Pattie's sister and a serial felon out of prison for the moment, and when she takes an armload of chemicals into their basement, you know that drug enforcement agencies would be interested. Her influence on Kimberly and the as yet law-abiding Jeff is like the influence of sparks on tinder, only funnier.

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